What can you say about Clarence Thomas?

Seriously.  The man is an absolute embarrassment of a Supreme Court Justice.  In a case you probably won’t hear a lot about, the Court overturned, 8-1, a conviction of a New Orleans man based on fairly egregious withholding of obviously exculpatory evidence.   The details:

Tuesday’s case concerned Juan Smith, who was convicted of killing five people in 1995, when a group of men burst into a house in search of money and drugs. They ordered the occupants to lie down and opened fire.

Mr. Smith was the only person tried for the killings. He was convicted based solely on the eyewitness testimony of a survivor, Larry Boatner. Prosecutors presented no DNA, fingerprints, weapons or other physical evidence.

But Mr. Boatner’s testimony proved sufficient.

“He’s right there,” Mr. Boatner said at Mr. Smith’s trial, pointing at the defendant. “I’ll never forget him.”

It later emerged that prosecutors had failed to disclose reports of interviews with Mr. Boatner. In one, hours after the killings, Mr. Boatner said he could not describe the intruders except to say they were black men. Five days later, he said he had not seen the intruders’ faces and could not identify them.  [emphasis mine]…

Justice Thomas’s dissent, at 19 pages, was almost five times as long as the majority opinion. “The question presented here is not whether a prudent prosecutor should have disclosed the information that Smith identifies,” Justice Thomas wrote.

Rather, he wrote, the question was whether Mr. Smith had not shown a reasonable probability that the jury would have reached a different conclusion had it known of the undisclosed statements. Justice Thomas said a careful review of the balance of the evidence demonstrated that nothing would have changed.

Seriously?!  Does he know what the words “reasonable” or “probability” mean?  Can you imagine having Clarence Thomas on a jury.  Prosecution opens it mouth and he yells “guilty!”  There’s the old line about a DA being able to get a grand jury indictment on a ham sandwich.  Presumably if Thomas were on the grand jury, he’d happy indict a single piece of white bread.

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About Steve Greene
Professor of Political Science at NC State http://faculty.chass.ncsu.edu/shgreene

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